From another angle

Mechanic in crawlspace below MU fountain

Dave Wiese, a Memorial Union mechanic, examines plumbing inside a crawlspace beneath the Fountain of the Four Seasons on the Memorial Union front lawn Monday. Annual fountain maintenance should wrap up this week and the water is expected to be turned on the week of April 13. Photo by Christopher Gannon.

New research initiative is designed to advance data-driven science

A new seed funding program announced this week will help establish interdisciplinary research teams to advance big data at Iowa State. Initial proposals are due May 11.

The Presidential Initiative for Interdisciplinary Research in Data Driven Science is an extension of President Steven Leath's inaugural program, which sponsored teams of researchers pursuing large-scale funding opportunities for major research initiatives. The new initiative supports Leath's goal of establishing the university as a leader in big data science.

Initiative details

Big data encompasses not only the massive volume of data becoming available in so many areas, but the structures, processes and analytical potential of harnessing information from multiple, complex data sources.

"Data science touches all of our colleges and research centers at Iowa State, from genomics and phenomics, to national infrastructure concerns, to business and marketing analysis," Leath said. "This large-scale effort is intended to boost the formation of multidisciplinary teams working across the university and creating innovative, data-driven approaches."

Vice president for research Sarah Nusser said the new initiative is designed to develop the big data community at Iowa State and complements other education and outreach efforts in data driven science underway here.

"Big data is widely recognized as a paradigm shift in how we approach research, education and outreach," Nusser said. "The data-driven science seed program fosters research groups who can be competitive in pursuing the numerous funding opportunities that require deep connections among the motivating application, data science and related social impacts -- including integrating education and outreach with research."

Research components to be included

The initiative will target interdisciplinary research groups using data-driven science as an approach to their scientific inquiry in their disciplinary areas -- also called content domains. Fields from all colleges are considered a potential content domain for this initiative.

Data science also is an important part of the research approach. This  includes accounting for the STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) science areas that relate to how the data are generated and stored, their underlying structure, as well as data processing and analyzing methods to extract information. In addition, data science involves understanding the societal impacts of big data, such as policy, ethics and privacy issues. These areas link to the humanities and social sciences. 

Team composition

Because the work is expected to cut across disciplines rather than focus only on core data science, teams will have four or more faculty and staff members from multiple academic units on campus. Each team is required to have at least one faculty investigator in the application domain area, at least one in the core data science area, and one member representing the social impact of the project research, if applicable. The lead investigator should be a full or associate professor at Iowa State.

Three-year funding

Teams will be funded over three years -- $100,000 to $200,000 per group each year -- with funds to be partially supported by cost sharing. Up to three groups are expected to receive funding in the initiative's first year, the fiscal year that begins on July 1. More teams may be funded in the following two years.

The Office of the Vice President for Research (VPR office) will lead the initiative, starting with a review and selection process that includes submission of initial white papers and then full proposals by invitation. Subject matter experts will be called upon to take part in this review process.


  • May 11: Teams interested in competing for funding should submit a three-page white paper to the VPR office (guidelines are online)
  • May 26: Invitations to submit full proposals will be distributed to selected teams by this date
  • June 22: Proposals due
  • July 6: Notification of awards will go out by this date

Questions about the initiative should be directed to associate vice president for research Wolfgang Kliemann

Blackboard help for students is here

Students will get 24/7 help with Blackboard issues. And instructors, who've been providing much of that support, thus far, will get some relief. That's the idea behind a pilot service for enhanced support of Blackboard, the online learning management system used for most ISU courses. The service began this week.

Previously,  students' only source of Blackboard support was the course instructor. Now they have three options to access Blackboard support at any time:

The new service involves a partnership between Information Technology Services (ITS) and the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT), and will utilize vendor-based support from Blackboard. The CELT Online Learning Innovation Hub, which has long provided faculty with Blackboard support, is helping ITS Solution Center staff develop Blackboard expertise.

“This support plan makes good sense, effectively combining the knowledge base of the vendor, the service structure of the ITS Solution Center and the Blackboard expertise within CELT,” said Ralph Napolitano, CELT associate director for online learning.

The ITS Solution Center will field basic support questions related to issues such as browser configuration, access to course content and assignment submissions. Additional support quickly will be routed to second-level Blackboard support.

More advanced Blackboard support issues -- like grading questions, assignments and other course-specific questions -- still may need to be routed back to individual faculty, but this pilot should significantly reduce faculty involvement in Blackboard support. Over the summer, another pilot will expand faculty support to a 24/7 format.

In addition to this enhanced support, ITS is meeting the ever-growing demand for Blackboard on campus by adding additional, more advanced disk space that increases capacity while operating more efficiently.

“We continue to set new records for Blackboard usage each semester,” said Jim Twetten, director of academic technologies. “As Iowa State grows, so must our ability to meet demand. This enhanced support and extra storage capacity will help us do that.”

Senate debates NTE contract notifications

Senators have two weeks to consider their stance on a policy change introduced at Tuesday's Faculty Senate meeting. The revision, although simple, sparked considerable discussion.

The change would impact two sections of the Faculty Handbook ( and, and involves the length of notice for employment contract renewals and nonrenewals sent to lecturers and clinicians with three or more years of service.

Currently, nonrenewal notices are required one year prior to the end of a contract. The proposed change shortens that notification deadline to six months prior to the end of the contract and includes renewal notifications, too.

"The problem is when the notices happen before the contracts even start," said Martha Selby, chair of the governance council.

For instance, a lecturer on a nine-month contract that begins in August receives a nonrenewal notice in May of that same year -- three months before that August contract goes into effect. Essentially, the lecturer has been notified that his or her upcoming contract has not been renewed before it even has started.

"They're getting a 12-month notice that basically says 'your next contract is your last one,' and they get this notice year, after year, after year," Selby said.

Some senators were concerned that the change didn't go far enough, calling for a bigger fix -- in minimum length of contract, for example.

"I think that's something for us to discuss and work toward, but seemed a bigger reach," Selby said. "This was to try to solve what I think is a situation where we aren't treating people the way we should be and I was trying to remedy that within the current appointments that we have. This is not to say that we aren't going to move on and work on things like length of contract. They aren't mutually exclusive in my mind."

Other business

  • A proposed health coach certificate was introduced, a 23-credit program that includes courses in three departments: food science and human nutrition, kinesiology and psychology. Senators will vote on the certificate at the April 21 meeting.
  • Senators elected chairs for two of the senate's councils: Micheal Owen (agronomy), judiciary and appeals council; and Peter Martin (human development and family studies), resource policies and administrative relations council.

Distinguished Awards Celebration is April 17

The ISU Alumni Association and the ISU Foundation will honor 10 individuals and one company with the university's highest awards during the annual Distinguished Awards Celebration on April 17 (1:30 p.m., Great Hall, Memorial Union). All are invited to attend.

Awards are given each spring to alumni and friends of Iowa State. The 2015 award recipients are listed below. Full biographies of the honorees are online.

Alumni association awards

Distinguished Alumni Award
The Distinguished Alumni Award, established in 1961, is the highest honor given to alumni by Iowa State through the ISU Alumni Association. This award honors ISU alumni who are nationally and/or internationally recognized for preeminent contributions to their professions or life's work.

  • Theodore Crosbie (B.S. 1973, M.S. 1976, Ph.D. 1978), retired vice president and executive leader of Monsanto Integrated Farming Systems, current consultant and special adviser to Monsanto, and chief technology officer for the state of Iowa. Crosbie resides in Earlham.
  • Richard Jurgens (B.S. 1971), retired chairman and CEO of Hy-Vee. Jurgens lives in West Des Moines.
  • Thomas (B.S. 1968, M.S. 1971) and Evonne (B.S. 1968) Smith, founders of Seismic Micro Technology and Geophysical Insights, seismic software development companies. The Smiths reside in Austin, Texas.

Honorary Alumni Award
The Honorary Alumni Award, established in 1968, is the highest honor given by Iowa State through the ISU Alumni Association to individuals who are not Iowa State graduates and who have made significant contributions to the university's welfare, reputation, prestige and pursuit of excellence.

  • J. Elaine Hieber, former senior woman administrator in the ISU athletics department and a member of the ISU Athletics Hall of Fame. She also was instrumental in bringing the Special Olympics Iowa Summer Games to Ames. Hieber lives in Ames.
  • Martha Robes, funded more than 1,100 scholarships from the Fred Foreman Scholarship for Growth in Leadership Participation, the Dean’s Study Abroad Scholarship and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Dean’s Leadership Scholars. She also established an endowed professorship in the department of animal science and a marketing and recruitment director position in the college. Robes resides in St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands.

Foundation awards

Order of the Knoll Corporation and Foundation Award
Presented to a corporation, foundation or association that has demonstrated generosity to Iowa State through significant leadership giving, dedicated and long-term service, and assistance to students and faculty through recruitment opportunities and research programs.

  • The Boeing Company, Chicago, provided scholarships to engineering and business students, connected students to experiential learning opportunities, supported the university’s growth through capital projects and advised faculty and staff on curriculum development and a variety of special projects. Boeing representatives serve on numerous councils at Iowa State within the engineering, business and design colleges.

Order of the Knoll Cardinal and Gold Award
Recognizes individuals or couples who have provided dedicated and long-term service and creative leadership to the ISU Foundation and Iowa State through the advancement of philanthropy. This award recognizes those whose lasting involvement with the university and the foundation has made a substantial impact in promoting and expanding philanthropy that supports Iowa State.

  • Ellen Molleston Walvoord (B.S. 1961), established the Walvoord Professorship in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in 2011. She also has supported the department of music and theatre and the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication. Walvoord lives in Lake Forest, Illinois.

Order of the Knoll Campanile Award
Recognizes the extraordinary, longtime support of an individual or couple who has had a significant and inspiring impact on Iowa State. This award honors those who have provided long-term substantial and loyal philanthropic support that has transformed the university. This is the most prestigious award presented by the ISU Foundation on behalf of the university.

  • Deloris Wright (Ph.D. 1973), funded music and biology programs, Parks Library, the colleges of Engineering and Veterinary Medicine, and the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics. Other areas of support include the Skunk River Navy and the Companion Animal Fund. Wright resides in Golden, Colorado.

Order of the Knoll Faculty and Staff Award
Recognizes an individual or couple currently employed by or retired from Iowa State who has/have provided dedicated and long-term professional and volunteer service and creative leadership to the ISU Foundation and Iowa State through the advancement of philanthropy. This award honors those whose involvement with the university and the foundation has been lasting and made a substantial impact in promoting and expanding philanthropy that supports Iowa State.

  • Maynard Hogberg (B.S. 1966, M.S. 1972, Ph.D. 1976), Professor Emeritus and past chair of the animal science department, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. During his time as chair, undergraduate enrollment in animal science doubled, seven endowed positions were created and a strong group of faculty was recruited. Hogberg lives in Ames.
  • Thomas McGee (B.S. 1948, M.S. 1958, Ph.D. 1961), Professor Emeritus of materials science and engineering. McGee is internationally recognized as an expert in temperature measurement, refectories, glass science and technology, biomaterials and design with brittle materials. He invented an artificial bone and has nine granted or pending patents for surgical applications. McGee resides in Ames.

Public comments sought in advance of accreditation review

Iowa State is seeking comments from the public -- including students, faculty and staff -- in preparation for its periodic reaccreditation by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

The university has been accredited continuously by the commission since 1916. Iowa State last was reaccredited in 2006.

An HLC review team will visit Iowa State Nov. 2-3 to review the institution's performance and its ongoing ability to meet the commission's five Criteria for Accreditation.

The university has been preparing for this visit for the last two years. Additional information about the university's preparation for the review, including leadership teams, is available on the provost's office website.

In addition to the public comment opportunity described below, the campus community will be able to provide comments and input during open forums that are part of the November visit. Details of those forums will be shared in the fall.

Public comment

The commission, as part of the accreditation review, invites public comments about Iowa State. Anyone inside or outside the university may submit comments to the review team. These comments, which are not considered confidential, must address substantive matters related to the quality of the institution or its academic programs.

Comments may be submitted either by mail or online, but must be received by Oct. 5.

Written comments may be mailed to:

    Public Comment on Iowa State University
    The Higher Learning Commission
    230 South LaSalle St., Suite 7-500
    Chicago, IL 60604-1411

Online comments may be submitted via this URL:

Study finds child care is a challenge

Employees and students with young children at Iowa State and the ISU Research Park agree: The university community needs more quality, accessible and affordable child care options.

This was the consensus of nearly 900 survey responses and campus interviews conducted last fall as part of a joint child care feasibility study to identify the demand for child care services on campus. Employees and students with children ages infant to 12 years old or those who plan to have or adopt kids within the next two years participated in the study.

This is Iowa State's first child care study, which, according to associate vice president for university human resources Julie Nuter, offers a solid framework on which to build possible child care projects.

"We started with a lot of unknowns, but now we have data that can help in future decision-making," Nuter said. "We can identify how and when a child care center or other options may fit into the bigger picture."

Current resources

Information about Iowa State's existing child care services is available online.

Key findings

Following are some of the key findings from the study. A complete report is online.

Who responded?

  • Professional and scientific employees were the largest group (51 percent) of university respondents
  • Workiva was the largest group (49 percent) of research park respondents
  • Forty-four percent of ISU respondents reported an annual family income of more than $100,000 and 20 percent reported an annual family income of less than $50,000. For research park respondents, the numbers were 46 percent and 8 percent, respectively.

Interest in child care

  • 481 of 630 university respondents and 169 of 235 research park respondents said they would be likely or somewhat likely to use a child care center on or near campus or the research park
  • There is significant interest in school-age child care initiatives, including emergency back-up, holiday and vacation, and summer day camp care

Affordability of child care

  • Most comments provided by respondents mentioned an inability to afford the cost of care at the ISU campus centers and the overall high cost of care in the area. Research about local centers shows the average cost of child care in Ames is higher than elsewhere in the county. During FY14, the average weekly cost for infant care was $246.32 in Ames and $196.36 for the rest of Story County.
  • Survey results and comments identified a high interest in financial assistance for child care
  • Participants in campus interviews said affordable, quality child care is an important part of recruitment efforts at ISU, especially for associate professors who do not have large salaries and often are in child-rearing years. They also said better child care options could increase diversity at Iowa State and help recruit more women faculty.

Availability of child care

  • Waiting lists and a lack of child care repeatedly were cited as a problem in the survey comments. Sixty-two percent of respondents said their preferred child care programs were already filled, especially for infants. Many said there is little infant care in the community and long waiting lists. This was supported by research at local centers.

Next steps

The study concluded that a new child care center for about 100 children on or near campus would cost approximately $3.5 to $4 million, including architectural designs, construction, furnishings, indoor and outdoor equipment, playground and staffing. The research park has requested information and bids from developers for a child care facility as part of its future expansion, and UHR is working with the purchasing department to develop a request for proposal for a child care vendor. But that doesn't mean a new child care center is in Iowa State's immediate future.

"A child care center doesn't address all our needs because families are not all alike," Nuter said.

But a child care center could prove to be an attractive recruitment tool, according to ISU Research Park director Steve Carter.

"Part of recruiting a young, dynamic workforce demands the creation of work space that allows employees' work and lives to seamlessly integrate," Carter said. "Having children close to the work space is a very logical extension of the live/work philosophy we are building into our next phase of development."

Nuter is sharing the study's results with various university groups and committees. She expects to continue the conversation on campus about the university's child care options throughout the spring. 

Bye-bye, PeopleAdmin 5.8

After seven months of simultaneously running two versions of Iowa State's online classification and hiring system -- PeopleAdmin 5.8 (PA5.8) and PeopleAdmin 7 (PA7) -- it's time to say goodbye to PA5.8.


If you have questions or need assistance with PeopleAdmin 5.8 or PeopleAdmin 7, contact your UHR recruitment consultant or visit the project website.

Beginning July 1, PA5.8 will retire for good. May 31 marks the last day applicants can apply for a position posted in PA5.8. There currently are about 20 active postings in the old system. PA7 launched last September and offers a user-friendly applicant portal that makes it easier to apply for positions at Iowa State and track the progress of applications.

PA5.8 shutdown timeline

Following is a timeline of shutdown activities for PA5.8:

  • Now through June: Administrative leaders (deans, directors, etc.) and human resources liaisons will be notified by email about the remaining positions posted in PA5.8. HR liaisons will finalize the remaining vacancies and may need assistance from administrators.
  • May 31: This is the last day applicants may access and apply for a posted position in PA5.8. No extensions or exceptions are possible.
  • June 1: June is the last full month PA5.8 will be accessible to campus users. Applicants in the old system must be reviewed, selected and hired by June 30. If you are unable to meet this deadline, contact your university human resources (UHR) recruiter. 
  • July 1: Campus users no longer will be able to access PA5.8. UHR will continue to maintain the master electronic records for the information contained in the PA5.8 system following its retirement. The following steps should be taken before this date:
  1. Collect historical data as necessary
  2. Properly finalize vacancies

Unique project

Running two systems at the same time has proved unique and somewhat challenging for those involved.

"Our recruiting cycle is long due to the nature of the university's work. We felt it was important to support campus' need to maintain the ability to collect applications throughout the system upgrade process," said Julie Nuter, associate vice president for UHR. "We recognize that this created some challenges for campus users. However, we appreciate the efforts by hiring managers, HR liaisons, ITS staff, UHR staff and other PA users to ensure a positive experience for candidates."

Fashion Show takes over Stephens Auditorium on Saturday

student model waits behind the curtain

A pair of student models prepare to move onto the Stephens stage during the 2014 student-produced Fashion Show. Submitted photo.

The 33rd Fashion Show, organized and produced by Iowa State students, will be held Saturday, April 11 (runway show at 7 p.m., doors open at 6 p.m, Stephens Auditorium). From approximately 150 entries spanning 14 categories, a four-member guest judging panel in late March selected about 90 pieces for the runway show and another 30 entries that will be exhibited in the Stephens lobby.

Student designers are vying for a total of 35 design awards, including Best in Show ($1,000), Merchandising Award ($400) and first, second and third place awards in most categories ($500-$100 each).

Fashion Show tickets are $22 ($16 for students/youth) at the Stephens ticket office; extra fees apply if purchased via Ticketmaster. Seats still are available in the back of the main floor and in the second and third balconies.

ISU Theatre's 'Les Miserables' is sold out

ISU Theatre's annual spring musical -- a cooperative production with the music department -- sold out its six original dates and an added performance. Les Misérables opens its run April 10 at Fisher Theater.

The musical boasts a large ensemble, including an accompanying orchestra and several area children in the cast. Even the production's backdrop was a collaborative effort, repurposed from a set designed by ISU Theatre associate professor Rob Sunderman for the Cedar Rapids Opera Theatre.

Based on the 1862 novel by Victor Hugo, Les Misérables is set in 19th century France. It is a story of one man's redemption -- from peasant, to prisoner, to thief, to benefactor. The eight-time Tony Award winner (including Best Musical) was one of the longest running Broadway productions. The 2012 film earned numerous awards, including Best Motion Picture from the Golden Globe Awards.